December 17, 2013

The Gift of Listening

Think of a time when someone actively, openly listened to you. A time when you told your story unedited and felt heard. That's a powerful experience. Yet how often do we really listen to each other? The barriers to true listening are many: racing thoughts in our minds, our desire to help (read: control) another, and our self-judgment (how do I appear? what does this person think of me?). These barriers can be minor or all-consuming. Regardless, they separate us from the conversation. They separate us from each other.

In this gift-giving season, I challenge us all: give the gift of true listening. Listen to someone without offering unsolicited advice; listen to someone without judgment; listen to someone and really try to understand. Ask questions. Stay connected. Be present. 

Shiny objects steal our attention, especially at lively gatherings. But there's always space. Let's find an opening and listen to one person. Maybe someone with whom we have a difficult relationship. Or someone we've long put in a particular box. Or someone we know really well, yet want to understand in a deeper way. Or someone we know not at all. Maybe it's important to listen to ourselves--turn off the inner-critic and listen to our hearts. 

My intention is to listen more each day. To people. To nature. To myself. I know I'll forget. I know I'll be distracted. Yet active listening is a place I can return over and over again. It's a gift to another and it's a gift to myself.


  1. Thank you for sharing, Joy! Your challenge is a great gift and I'll take it: sounds like the perfect focus for this time of the year and ahead. I'll make it to a project for 2014. As we move to another European country, the challenge will get an extra touch: listening to people in a language different from my mother tongue, raised in a different culture, with curiosity and the awareness that it will take a while to really integrate and become part of a new community ... Seeing my birth country and its people, my dear family, friends and beloved ones from a distance and wondering if this new point of view will change the way I listen to them ...

    Cheers to a brand new year, dear friend, and thank you so much for being an inspiration. You, your thoughtful words and your refreshing and at the same time authentic photography mean a lot to me!

    1. heartfelt thanks, elke. this comment is so beautiful and kind. i love your positive intention with regard to your move. yes, cheers to a brand new year!